In Memoriam: Judith C. Kohl


Judith C. Kohl, 79, died in Middletown, Delaware on December 4, 2018 from cardiac arrest following complications after knee replacement surgery. The only daughter of Willard and Grace Louise (Harnly) Cleek, Judy was born at Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia on September 12, 1939 and spent her childhood years in Lansdowne, PA. Following the early death of her father she attended The Ellis School in Newtown Square graduating valedictorian in 1957. She earned a BA from the University of Delaware and an MA from State University of New York at New Paltz. Her postgraduate study at City University of New York focused on Venice and water imagery in the poetry of Ezra Pound.

Judy was Professor Emeritus of English and Humanities at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she taught from 1966 until her retirement in 1995. Known for a classroom style that made American literature accessible to all students, she taught courses ranging from remedial English to autobiographies of marginalized Americans. A specialist in modern drama, she led numerous annual trips to London where students were exposed to contemporary theatre. She was Director of the Honors Program and founder of Exploring Transfer: a prototype program for community college students to matriculate to Vassar and other four-year institutions. She was an early advocate for community college education and repeatedly served as a faculty union negotiator. She was a reviewer for, and contributor to, numerous publications and anthologies.

While a student at University of Delaware Judy met and fell in love with a teaching assistant in one of her history classes. She married Benjamin Kohl, of Middletown, Delaware on January 2, 1961. After the birth of their first child, Benjamin Jr., the couple moved to Baltimore for Ben’s doctoral study at Johns Hopkins University. They lived in Padua, Italy in 1964 during Ben’s Fulbright year and returned to Baltimore where a daughter, Laura Ann, was born. That year abroad was the beginning of a life-long relationship with Italy and in particular Venice. After Ben’s passing in 2010 Judy continued to make annual trips, 42 in all, to the Veneto. Many friends benefitted from her role as generous host and expert tour guide.

As a working mother during the 1960s, Judy became a role model for many. She was a housefellow at Vassar; volunteer on national, state and local Democratic campaigns; protest organizer against the war in Vietnam and advocate for women’s rights. Throughout her life Judy maintained relationships with young women and men whom she mentored and inspired.

Judy’s lifelong commitment to service blossomed during her “retirement” to Kent County. She was a founding member of the Betterton Community Development Corporation, wrote the Talk of the Town Betterton column for the Kent County News, and persistently served as the town’s Chairman of the Board of Supervisor of Elections. Judy served as an advisor, director, or chairperson on numerous non-profit Boards in Kent County, and provided significant service to: The Garfield Center for the Arts, The Mainstay, Kent Youth, Inc., and The Chestertown Spy.

Washington College provided Judy with many satisfying experiences. She was a faculty member for WC-ALL, President and supporter of the Friends of Miller Library, and benefactor of Kohl Gallery.

While Judy herself was a generous supporter of many non-profit organizations, much of her patronage happened through The Hedgelawn Foundation. She and Ben created this small charitable trust in 2006 to promote the humanities, historical preservation and the visual preforming arts on Delmarva and in Venice, Italy. Their model of philanthropy, based on a requirement of matching funds, continues to enrich the artistic and cultural community of the Eastern Shore.

Judith C. Kohl is survived by a brother, John Willard Cleek and his wife, Constance, of Vero Beach, Florida; a son Benjamin G. Kohl Jr. and his wife Kimberley M. Kohl of Betterton, Maryland; a daughter Laura Ann Kohl and a granddaughter Haley Lee Carpenter Ball of Cortlandt Manor, NY; a niece, a nephew and numerous cousins. A private graveside service will be held at Old Saint Anne’s in Middletown, Delaware. A celebration of Judy’s life is being planned for winter 2019.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests making a contribution in Judy’s memory to St. Martin’s Ministries of Ridgley Maryland.

A Reflection on Servant Leaders by George Merrill


This month marks a significant anniversary in my life.

On December 17, 1960, I was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

I have fond recollections. It was a grand occasion. The cathedral setting and the ceremony’s grandeur left me feeling as though I were being knighted, and instead of a sword laid upon my head while I knelt in fealty to a King, the Bishop of New York laid his hands upon my head in the way of the ancient rite that confers the order of priesthood. The rite was dignified, noble in its intent and the prayers and invocations spoken in the lyrical Elizabethan language from the old Book of Common Prayer, lofty and inspiring. It marked the beginning of my lifetime career. I was not being ordained to a privileged office, but equipped to be a servant.

It took me a while to get it, but in time I learned.

Sorting out my feelings about the ordination experience happened to fall on the day that former president George H.W. Bush’s funeral service was held at the National Cathedral. It too, was lofty and inspiring, but this occasion marked the end of a life of service, not the beginning.

In a way, the funeral at the Washington Cathedral reminded me of my ordination. Both services were held in large cathedrals, both magnificent settings that were regal, elegant, communicating how serving others was a noble calling. For former president Bush, the funeral at the National Cathedral celebrated the years of service he offered to our nation. The funeral was a celebration of one leader’s life as a public event. The service united us in collective thanks for his contribution to the world. He presided over the end of the Cold War without a shot being fired.

My ordination at St. John the Divine was not the end of a career of service, but instead a ceremonial beginning, essentially commissioning me in the words of Jesus, to “love one another as I have loved you.” Then, I was as green as grass and only imagined how living out such a charge might be like. The overriding themes of the ordination rite and the presidential funeral liturgy highlighted a fundamental human responsibility, each rite in its own way claiming that serving others is the highest calling for all of us whether offered professionally or in the practice of daily life. Who doesn’t want to know that someone cares enough about who we are to look after us?

Teaching, medicine, nursing, psychology, healthcare, ministry, social work, emergency services and some arms of public service are generally regarded as “helping professions.” Almost any service others provide for our well- being are strictly speaking “helping,” but the above-mentioned vocations are directed specifically to psychological, spiritual, physiological, and social needs with specialists equipped to deliver them.

There’s a common thread woven through the helping professions but how some deliver their services differs dramatically, like the neurosurgeon. He or she functions in much tighter parameters, than say the teacher, nurse and clergyman who enjoy greater latitude in performing their duties. One British neurosurgeon, Henry Marsh, in his fine book, “Do No Harm” describes his work like the men who defuse bombs and mines. The window for error is crushingly small for such surgeons. Marsh says that neurosurgeons breed a kind of hyper attentiveness in performing their craft. Attention dare not drift even for a second. It’s always a matter of life and death.

For clergy and politicians, and I suspect for nurses, teachers, psychologists and social workers, the services they provide are intimately wrapped around the personalities through which they mediate their service. An ability to feel compassion is the sine qua non for this group; the kinder they are, the more enduring their impact in and out of their professional roles.

I’ve often thought of Jimmy Carter as compassionate. His political successes are not remembered as much as the impact of his person. Like Bush has was a one term president and humble by nature. Carter did not have a dynamic personality. He was not a great speaker and he did micro-manage the White House. His presidency did not enjoy the same successes as Obama and Clinton, but for integrity he had no parallel. If white conservative Christians today think they are getting bad press from fake news, they might look to president Carter for the inspiration they need to polish their image. A born-again Southern Baptist from Georgia, a religious conservative, who after his presidency, returned to his roots in Plains to continue a life of service. He still teaches Sunday School, lives in a rancher valued at about $240,000, and receives about half the retirement pension that Obama and Clinton enjoy in retirement. Recently, he left his life-long church affiliation in protest against its failure to support gender reform. He has been responsible for housing thousands of the poor worldwide by promoting Habitat for Humanity. He’s been a tireless advocate for peace and was successful in establishing a Middle East Truce.

As the saying goes, Carter walked the walk as did Bush, but in very different ways.

The funeral of George H.W. Bush, and that of Senator McCain recently highlighted in painfully sharp relief what today we are missing in public life. Committed and caring, these men were different in temperament; Bush, the steady handed patrician, McCain, the firebrand and scrapper and Carter the plodder. Despite differences these men dignified us and the country by their commitment to public life and service. They cared; they cared for the people, the nation’s institutions, and they honored the men and women who serve them.

It’s written in scripture: “And whoever will be great among you, let him first be your servant.”

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Mid-Shore Habitat: The Whimsical Metal Sculpture of David Dunn


Last night I decorated my Christmas tree with one of my older siblings while we listened to the Vince Guaraldi Trio Christmas album, better known to other  “Peanuts” fans as the soundtrack  to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Now that my tree is resplendent with all my beloved ornaments from Christmases past, the floor is bare and in need of presents!

The perfect unique gift for the gardener or art lover on my list would be one of the whimsical sea creature sculptures of local artist David Dunn. David grew up in  DC and spent summers and holidays at his family’s waterfront Bozman home. From an early age, he would take driftwood and other Bay detritus deposited by the high tides and repurpose them into three-dimensional art. The Chesapeake Bay provided an unlimited source of found materials which later inspired his “Sea Creatures” series of metal art.

As the son of a diplomat, David spent his early years in Paris where he was captivated by art and later attended the College of Charleston where he majored in theater. His focus was prop design and fabrication but art still beckoned. As his interest in metal design grew, he decided to do post-graduate work in welding.

This training, his innate design talent, his love of the Chesapeake Bay and his life-long interest in “found” objects culminated in his current series “Kings of the Sea” which is fabricated entirely in metal and painted in bright colors.

His workday begins by looking at life that exists in and around the Bay waters and foraging for items he then repurposes into new life forms.  These items include industrial parts, bike gear mechanisms, clamps, and bolts that in his creative hands are transformed into “sea creatures” and “tool critters”. In one of my favorite critters, the handle of a wrench became the spine, the clamps the teeth and the bolts the eyes. In another delightful critter, a helmet and cutlery were transformed into a turtle. Some critters maintain their metal color while others are brightly painted like the captivating “Sailfish.”

David’s work can be found in private collections both local and national including clients on the Eastern Shore and New York City, Key West, Malibu and Washington DC. Currently his “Octopus King of the Sea” is on exhibit at the Academy of Art in Easton through mid-January.

I firmly believe a daily touch of whimsy is good for the soul. Now that gardens are becoming dormant until spring, one of David’s colorful whimsical creations may be just the antidote to the winter doldrums and the perfect gift for the gardener on your list!

For further inspiration visit David’s website at www.dunninmetal or contact him via email at or call 202-390-1881.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

Kent County Philanthropist Judy Kohl has Passed


With profound sadness, the Chestertown Spy learned this morning that Kent County philanthropist, friend of the arts, and educator Judy Kohl has passed away.
The former college professor was the wife of Benjamin Kohl of Betterton.

Since their retirement from Poughkeepsie, New York more than fifteen years ago, the couple created the Hedgelawn Foundation to provide philanthropic support to many of Kent County’s most worthy cultural, educational and arts programs and organizations. Judy was particularly devoted to performance art and music, and was a major force in the Prince Theatre’s transformation into the Garfield Center for the Arts on High Street, as well as the needs of the Miller Library at Washington College, and her beloved Mainstay working closely with her friend Tom McHugh. The Kohls were also the benefactors of the Kohl Gallery at WC.

Judy Kohl was also one of the original sponsors of the Chestertown Spy project and served on its Board of Advisors since 2010.

The Spy will have more to share about Judy’s life and contributions over the course of the next few days.

President H.W. Bush and Garth Brooks by Al Sikes


Garth Brooks performing for 85,000 at Notre Dame Football stadium in a cold rain was quite remarkable. It was carried by CBS last Sunday night.  I watched, in part, because Brooks had a special relationship with President George H.W. Bush. My wife and I last saw the President at his Presidential Library in 2014, the 25th Anniversary of the beginning of his term. I served in his Administration.

The reunion was quite interesting and in true Bush-style no time was spent critiquing the President then in office, Barack Obama. There was some talk about the possibility of Jeb Bush running for President, but mostly a bunch of out-of-power persons discussing what worked and didn’t.

The celebratory centerpiece was a birthday party for the President under a tent on the grounds of the Bush Presidential Library located on the Texas A&M campus. The co-star of the evening turned out to be a surprise, Garth Brooks. He had flown in to be with the President. What a privilege; it was warm, not raining and we were feet from the stage. Brooks was sensational as he brought us to our feet with Friends in Low Places and showed loving warmth toward the President and Mrs. Bush, by then in wheel chairs.

My wife and I had an earlier Garth Brooks sighting. He performed for hundreds of thousands in Central Park in New York just several blocks from where we lived. We watched from our window on the 14th floor. Two days before we were in the Park walking our dogs when a couple from Alabama, carrying a cooler and other gear, asked where the Brooks concert was to be performed. They intended to camp out for two days to get the best seats. Remarkable.

Music is often discounted as a cultural influence. We do that at our risk. While I am not familiar with a lot of Brooks’ music, I particularly like the song he credits with being his favorite, Enjoy The Dance.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Kinder. Gentler. By Jamie Kirkpatrick



They’ve been on the road for several days now, plodding along with everyone else, going back home to enroll. All these animals, all these people; the dust clogs the woman’s nose and her eyes are red and dry. She’s exhausted; she feels a constant pressure in her belly. The man is worried and not a little confused; his hands are calloused and chapped and he is chewing his nails. Their swayback donkey looks ready to drop, but there is still a long way to go before nightfall. It’s too noisy to talk. Heads down, the couple just keep moving forward. They are hoping for a kinder time. A gentler time.

At this time of year in the desert, the days are chilly; at night, the temperature drops sharply and there is nothing to block the wind. Finally the man and woman reach their destination and make their way through the deserted streets of the little town, looking for some shelter, a safe place to spend the night. They’re hungry; their money is almost gone. It’s getting late. Finally, they come to a humble little caravansary but all the rooms are taken. The innkeeper looks at the woman—he notes the slump of her shoulders and sees the dark circles under her eyes—so he takes pity on the travelers and sends them around back where there is a crowded little stable. It noisy and it smells of animals but at least the roof and walls will block the wind and the hay on the floor is still clean and fresh. The woman slides down from the donkey and sinks into the soft hay. The man does what he can to make her comfortable, then steps outside and leans back against the mud wall. It’s very cold; the stars blink and glisten like a thousand tiny lanterns. He is exhausted. He hopes tomorrow will be a kinder day. A gentler day.

Some time in the night, she feels a sharp pain. She knows it is her time. She tells him the baby is coming. He is terrified and doesn’t know what to do. He runs around to the front of the inn and bangs on the door but no one answers so he hurries back to the stable. There is blood on the straw, but she is holding a child, wrapping it in strips of fresh linen she has kept clean just for this moment. Before she finishes wrapping the baby, he lifts a fold of cloth and sees the child is a boy. The man kisses the woman’s forehead and arranges himself behind her so she can lean on him and rest. He rubs her shoulders and wonders. She has never felt so tired but she is filled with love for this helpless child. She holds the baby close to her breast and prays that he will live in a kinder world. A gentler world. They all drop into a deep and dreamless sleep.

We all know this is just an old story. But the hope for a kinder, gentler future endures. For us here now, we still long to be a nation without rancor or deceit, a nation without hatred or fear, a nation without racism or narcissism or corruption. A kinder nation. A gentler nation.

Rest in peace, George Herbert Walker Bush.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is


George H.W. Bush: A Lifetime of Commitment to Family and Country by Craig Fuller


I join with millions who reflect on the life of one of the nation’s most remarkable individuals. His service to country has few parallels. The same can be said of his 73 years of marriage to Barbara Bush.

Vice President Bush and the author at the UN Security Council in July, 1988

As I met him in 1981, it was clear that if the country sought to prepare an individual for the White House, the path George H.W. Bush followed provided the best possible experience. It was also clear the vast experience, when combined with his strong values, brought great judgment

When he asked this Californian, who came to the White House with Ronald Reagan, to become his chief of staff for the second term of the Reagan/Bush Administration it was a bit of a surprise, but also a very high honor. We would travel to over 60 countries and every state in the nation multiple times as he served his second term as vice president and sought to win a presidential election.

Karen and Craig Fuller with George and Barbara Bush – Kennebunkport 2017

Much will be said as people look back about all he accomplished and the significance of the positions he held. For me, the memories that stand out most are of the thousands who called him a trusted friend. It mattered not where we traveled, there were always people, be they world leaders or a person in a New Hampshire diner, who felt the warmth of true friendship.

While a sad time, my thoughts upon hearing the news were of how much he and Barbara Bush wished to end each day together and how on this day that is exactly what will surely come to pass.

Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore with his wife Karen.


Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol a Holiday Delight at Garfield Center


The cast of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol at the Garfield Center 2018 – Photo by Peter Heck

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without Charles Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim – one of the classic Christmas stories. This year, the Garfield Center is offering an adaption of the tale for young audiences, “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol,” and for good measure, the show’s second week coincides with Chestertown’s “Dickens of a Christmas” festival.

The story is set in London in 1834, a decade before the story was first published. Tiny Tim Cratchit, whose father works for the miser Scrooge, is trying to find a way to get his father a day off for Christmas. But Scrooge, who sneers at anything that doesn’t contribute to his bottom line, tells Crachett to be at work at 9 o’clock sharp on Christmas day – there’s money to be made, and that’s an end to it. Desperate, Tim and his young friend Charlotte enlist several street vendors to impersonate ghosts to scare Scrooge into recognizing the spirit of Christmas and giving his employee the holiday off. As the play continues, we watch the plan unfold – and just at the critical moment, a real Christmas miracle takes place.

Jim Landskroener as Scrooge – Photo by Peter Heck

Director Bonnie Hill has brought together a good cross-section of local acting talent, including several younger actors, for this production. Garfield veteran (and board member) Jim Landskroener – last seen as Groucho Marx in “Animal Crackers” – has the prize role of Scrooge, and Dickens would be proud of his portrayal. Whether he is rejecting a request for charitable contributions for the poor — “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” — or cowering before the ghosts called up to reform the miser’s ways, Landskroener is spot-on. 

Tiny Tim and Charlotte devise a plan to make Scrooge give Bob Cratchit a day off for Christmas – Photo by Peter Heck

John Crook plays Tiny Tim, who also acts as the narrator of the play, while Raven Miller takes the role of Charlotte, Tim’s young friend. They are on-stage pretty much the entire time, and they make the most of their stage time, whether they’re in the middle of the action or hiding just outside Scrooge’s view while their plans are going forward. They also serve as intermediaries for younger audience members, giving them an understandable hook to involve them in the main action of converting Scrooge from a holiday-hating miser to a participant in the spirit of the season. Both do excellent jobs.

The three vendors are played by Jane Jewell, David Ryan and Bryan Zajchowski – each of whom takes on several additional roles within the play. Jewell, whose last local appearance was in the role of Aunt Rhoda in Earl Lewin’s “Hitched,” is cast as a puppet vendor, the Ghost of Christmas Past and Tiny Tim’s mother, Mrs. Cratchit. Ryan is a pie-seller, Scrooge’s old employer Fezziwig, and the ghosts of Marley and Christmas Present. And Zajchowski plays a bookseller, Mrs. Fezziwig, andTiny Tim’s father, Bob Cratchit. All handle the multiple roles well, and their costume changes are done smoothly enough that the play doesn’t slow down. Zajchowski is especially funny when he portrays the cheerful Mrs. Fezziwig with a high, squeaky voice and dancing in a red evening dress. Good jobs by three versatile character actors.

Robbie Spray does a good job in several minor roles, including Scrooge’s nephew Fred, a gravedigger, and Mr. Stevens, a gentleman who solicits Scrooge for a charitable donation. He also ghosts the voice of Christmas Future, played onstage by a life-sized flying puppet manipulated by Steve Atkinson.  Atkinson also has multiple responsibilities as stage manager and playing a small role as Mr. Hollyfoot, a gentleman who collaborates with Mr. Stevens in collecting for charity and is appalled by Scrooge’s callousness and complete lack of Christmas spirit or any sympathy for the poor and underprivileged.

The three street vendors: David Ryan as the pie-seller, Bryan Zajchowski as the book-seller, and Jane Jewell as the puppet-seller – Photo by Peter Heck

Alden Swanson plays a young girl and a Christmas turkey.   Caleb Ford takes the part of the young boy who tells Scrooge it’s Christmas morning and runs to get and deliver the turkey.  Swanson and Ford join Kathy Jones, Cornelia Fallon, and Michelle Genovese as Christmas carolers, assisted by the rest of the cast at several points. The songs are traditional Christmas favorites of the era including “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “The Holly and the Ivy” – it’s nice to hear something besides today’s commercial seasonal fare. Julie Lawrence is musical director.

The costumes are period-appropriate and very eye-catching as well. Kudos to costume chair Juanita Wieczorek and her crew Connie Fallon, Tina Johnson, and Jen Emley. Several of the costumes, including the four gentlemen’s frock coats and most of the carolers’ outfits, were hand-made for this production by Connie Fallon and other costume committee members.  They will also be used in the Dickens Weekend activities. The set gives the feeling of the era while being flexible enough to allow reasonably quick scene changes. Earl Lewin designed and Beverly Smith painted the sets.  Jennifer Kafka Smith made the wonderful Victorian-period puppets.

Scrooge, played by Jim Landskroener, is awakened by the Ghost of Christmas Present (David Ryan) – Photo by Peter Heck

The play as a whole takes just under an hour, so it’s unlikely to strain the patience of young theater-goers, who are pretty much the natural audience for this adaptation of Dickens’ tale. And while this version of Dickens’ novella has been adapted and streamlined for younger viewers, there’s enough left of the original text, particularly in Scrooge’s lines, to serve as an effective introduction to the story for those younger audince members.  Scrooge still says “If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population” and “Bah, humbug”. 

This production is definitely a play for the whole family – it might be a good idea to come the first weekend, before the Dickens festival brings in the large out-of-town audience. 

Scrooge (Jim Landskroener) in his nightgown is thrilled to be told by a boy (Caleb Ford) that it is still Christmas day – Photo by Peter Heck

Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. General admission is $20. Tickets for seniors and military personnel are $15, and tickets for students are $10. Get a special $5 off on opening night if you wear your Garfield Center t-shirt! Call the Garfield box office at 410-810-2060 or visit Eventbrite to reserve tickets.

The puppet-seller (Jane Jewell), disguised as the Ghost of Christmas Past, arrives to scare Scrooge (Jim Landskroener). – Photo by Peter Heck

John Crook as Tiny Tim – Photo by Peter Heck

David Ryan as the pie-seller – Photo by Peter Heck

A gravedigger (Robbie Spray) gives Scrooge a glimpse of what lies ahead – Photo by Peter Heck

The Cratchit family dinner: Mrs. Cratchit (Jane Jewell), Emily (Raven Miller), Mr. Cratchit (Bryan Zajchowski), Tiny Tim (John Crook) – Photo by Peter Heck

He Said, He Said by Al Sikes


Political disputes are often so parochial that few follow them with any sustained interest. Perhaps that will be the fate of one that features two Talbot County Republicans, with excellent Party credentials, facing off. But, at least for now, it is reasonably topical and very instructive.

In the latest salvo the Republican Central Committee Chairman, Nicholas Panuzio, accused Talbot Spy columnist, David Montgomery, of being a RINO.

According to Wikipedia, Republican In Name Only (RINO) is a pejorative term used by conservatives to describe Republicans whose political views or actions they consider insufficiently conservative.

Now I don’t read everything David writes, but what I have read suggests that he is not insufficiently conservative. Indeed, until September of this year, he was Chairman of the Republican Council. But, lest I get caught up in somebody else’s dispute, let me close with two observations.

In my view local elections should not be contested by candidates of the two political parties. We should open up the process by having non-partisan elections. There are no Republican or Democrat views on noise or short-term rental ordinances, for example. Dividing a reasonably large population by two results in radical over-generalization. And, I believe it would be a good idea to have Independents welcomed in local governance.

Finally, partisans should keep in mind that ideological purges result in small tents and they only accommodate one ring circuses.

Climate Change Re-visited

I have expressed myself on climate change and why it is a bad idea to not treat the threat seriously. If you are interested, this is the link.

Mostly climate change projections or policy has fallen into a words and phrases battle. Politicians and their spear-carriers throw around phrases like “Medicare for all”, “gun control”, “free college for everyone”, “climate change” and the like anticipating the bases of their Parties will be animated by the underlying insinuations. Any regulation of guns, for example, becomes gun control. I wonder how often the phrase “Medicare for all” has been used as an actual starting point for a practical discussion on how it would work or be funded.

Thought fragments are sometimes followed by bullet points. Persons who are very concerned about threats attendant to climate change, for example, urge the exclusive use of renewable energy (solar and wind) and the enactment of a carbon tax. In order to get any sense of whether either approach offers consequential reduction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, you have to get into what news people call the “weeds” (suggesting we should avoid).

Mostly politicians avoid comprehensive proposals on how to counteract a warming climate. The economics of either all-renewables energy or a carbon tax would call for sacrifice and virtually all candidates avoid attaching sacrifice to anything they propose (unless, of course, it is taxing the rich).

Enter Bill Gates. In an interview by Axios, aired by HBO, Gates said “people who are laser-focused on solving climate change with renewable energy only — chiefly wind and solar — are just as bad as those blocking action (i.e., Trump)”. To read Axios summary of the interview go here

Gates himself is investing in early stage companies that have business models organized around small nuclear power generation, carbon recapture and other technologies that would reduce carbon in the atmosphere.  

What can we do? A useful step would be to require politicians, who control the levers of power, to cease being glib (“fluent and voluble but insincere and shallow”) about such an important issue.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.